Published May 7, 2016
PINE RIDGE INDIAN RESERVATION – Spring is a time of new beginnings at Red Cloud Indian School. The hallways are filled with talk of the future—of starting college, exploring careers, and dreaming of new possibilities. After a year consumed with the challenges of college and scholarship applications, members of Red Cloud’s senior class are preparing to begin a new phase of their lives. And for five hardworking Red Cloud students, that next step involves taking on a new title: 2016 Gates Millennium Scholar.
“When I went home, I opened my bedroom door, and there was a pretty big envelope there,” said Justin Mesteth, recounting how he learned he was a Gates Scholar. “It was a moment I won’t forget. There was a lot of relief—it was a moment of joy.”
As recipients of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, Justin and his classmates will receive funding to cover almost the entire cost of their bachelor’s degrees, and further education if they so choose, at the college of their choice. The scholarship—launched through a historic, one billion dollar gift from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—gives high-achieving minority students with extreme financial needs the chance to pursue a college education in any area of interest.
The eligibility standards for the Gates are exceptionally rigorous: in addition to having a minimum GPA of 3.3, applicants must demonstrate leadership skills and a commitment to community service. Only 1000 scholars are selected from a pool of over 53,000 applicants. For those who earn the scholarship, it represents an extraordinary opportunity to pursue both personal and professional dreams.
“I’m not surprised that these five students received the Gates… all of them have worked incredibly hard to get where they’re going,” said Clare Huerter, Red Cloud’s dean of students. “It takes a lot of perseverance to even apply for the Gates, and that’s the perseverance we’ve seen in them through all four years of high school.”
To date, 72 Red Cloud seniors have earned the prestigious scholarship—the highest number of any school of its size in the country. Red Cloud’s previous Gates scholars have gone on to study at universities including Stanford, Creighton, Dartmouth, and many more.Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on the Red Cloud School’s website. Used with permission. All rights reserved.